Bring in the Experts!

If you’ve been to SkepchickCON before (as part of CONvergence), you know that part of the Skepchick’s strategy for bringing good science and skepticism into a science fiction is adding more expertise to the mix. We regular attendees can study up for our panels, but we are no substitute for a scientist or journalist who has made an in-depth study of a particular field. In past years, Skepchick has brought in astronomers and climate scientists, journalists and activists to make sure that the information presented to our audiences is the best it can be.

Expertise, however, isn’t free. Our experts are generous with their time, but there are still travel and hotel costs to be paid. That money, as with so much in skepticism, comes from donations.

Skepchick is coming up on its first funding target tomorrow. They’re close to their goal (closer than it looks on the widget due to an outside donation, but they’re still not there. As an incentive for donations, Surly Amy is turning psychic and answering reader questions. All the same guaranteed accuracy as any other psychic with much more entertainment.

If you have some spare cash and want to support successful skeptical and scientific outreach, won’t you consider donating to help SkepchickCON this year? It will help determine how many and which experts Skepchick can bring in.

Bring in the Experts!

Have You Heard the Good News?

I mean the news out of Saint Paul. Via Minnesotans United for All Families:

A bipartisan group of legislative leaders announced a bill Wednesday morning to give same-sex couples the right to get married in Minnesota.

“It would simply allow folks who so desire, who have demonstrated a lifetime of love and commitment to get married,” said Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), a co-author of the bill. “We’re affirming things that we all prize, love at the center of marriage.”

The legislation aims to repeal Minnesota’s 1997 law that banned marriage between two people of the same sex.

Co-author Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), is the first Republican state legislator to publicly support gay marriage in Minnesota.  He said this bill “strengthens children, strengthens marriage and families and protects religious freedom.”

Despite Minnesota voters defeating an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in November, opponents of same sex marriage aren’t backing down.

Read the whole thing here. Help Minnesotans United get out the support for this bill here or here. If you live in Minnesota, please contact your state rep and senator. We can make this happen.

Have You Heard the Good News?

You Count–Be Counted

The timing is coincidental. I know because Adam Lee and I talked about his petition about a week ago. It was driven by Thunderf00t’s video, not by the timing of the HEADS meeting that Ron Lindsay asked about two days ago. Nonetheless, the timing is good.

We, the undersigned, are atheists, skeptics and nonbelievers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriving movement that can advocate effectively for these values. We’ve chosen to put our names to this petition because we want to respond to a video created by a blogger calling himself Thunderfoot. In this video, Thunderfoot attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them.

We hold this and similar complaints from other individuals to be seriously misguided, false in their particulars and harmful to the atheist community as a whole, and we want to set the record straight. We wish to clarify that Thunderfoot and those like him don’t speak for us or represent us, and to state our unequivocal support for the following goals:

What are those goals? Making the movement more diverse and inclusive; having strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings, and supporting those of us who have been targeted by bullying, harassment, and threats.

Why is the timing good? Shortly the leaders of several national secular organizations will meet to discuss the state of the movement and their priorities for the near future. They could have gone into this knowing that this is an important issue to some of them but not really being able to sort out the balance of opinions from the loud voices talking about these issues. They could have gone into it having heard only from those followers of Thunderf00t who listened when he asked them to take his video to the organizations (though Ron’s request and the responses he’s received mitigated that at least somewhat).

Instead, if you are one of the many people who have spoken up here, or nodded quietly while lurking, Adam has given you an easy way to make your opinion known. You can go and leave a message to those leaders with your vote, or you can simply sign and be counted. Many of them responded well to the call to implement anti-harassment policies. Several contributed to Surly Amy’s series speaking generally against hatred. They should be receptive to this as well, but being leaders, they’re not always answerable just to themselves. Help them know they’re speaking for you too when they move forward on this.

Adam has more at his blog on his reasons for creating the petition.

You Count–Be Counted

Helping the Families

We can’t change what happened. We can’t make it better. We can, however, take one small worry off the plate of the families who lost children in Newtown. From We Are Atheism:

Atheists Giving Aid – Support Sandy Hook Elementary

During this time of great tragedy, American Atheists along with the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics (SOMA, a SSA affiliate and University of Kansas Student Organization) and We Are Atheism, have decided to come together to raise funds for the children and their families affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary SchoolThe families that have been hurt did not plan for their child’s funeral, no parent does.  None of us would have ever thought to have money saved for the great expense of a funeral for any of our children.  The money you donate will go directly to the Sandy Hook Elementary families for funeral expenses and counseling for the survivors of the shooting and their families.  Now it is your turn to show that there are more of those who love and care for their fellow community members than those who would kill mercilessly.

A typical child’s funeral costs between $3,000-$5,000.  The wooden casket alone is near $3,000.  In Newtown, CT the cost of living is ~129% above the national average. This horrific time is difficult enough without having to worry about how they are going to pay to bury their child and afford counseling for themselves and their siblings left behind. Please give as much as you can so the people of Newtown, CT can begin healing and get the help they need.

We will be processing these payments to American Atheists to distribute the money to the 20 families that we have contact info for. Additional funds will go to help the families of the adults who were killed and to community in their efforts to provide counseling to those involved. Your donation is tax deductible (we will be getting our 501C3 status next year)

Yes, I know that sometimes parents do have insurance for that. They’ve checked. These parents did not.

You can donate here.

Helping the Families

Geeking for Good

Starting tomorrow at noon Central time, Jason and JT are starting a marathon gaming session for fundraising. Half the proceeds will go to Camp Quest and half will go to the Women in Secularism conference. The whole thing will be streamed and captured for your viewing pleasure (see Jason’s blog tomorrow for the stream link). Also so you can taunt people later over being trounced in the games.

Now, if you listen to JT, you’d think these guys were doing old school gaming:

I’ve spent some time seeing if we can run some of the arcade games from my youth which I never got to beat because it cost too many damn quarters.  Old school arcades will be playing include:

  • NBA Jam/NBA Hangtime
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Street Fighter II
  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • Battle Circuit
  • Smash TV
  • R-Type LEO
  • Cyberbots
  • Ninja Baseball Batman
  • Altered Beast
  • Contra
  • The Simpsons
  • Turtles in Time
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
  • Ninja Commando

It’s not new. I’ll give them that. But oy, these kids, thinking that’s old. If you want to talk old, you’ll want to tune in when I join the guys at 8 a.m. CDT Sunday morning.

That’s also when I’ll announce a funding challenge. Only my challenge won’t be for JT and Jason. It will be for the viewers. I’ve been trying to track down a long-lost game for a while. As far the official lists go, it seems to have never existed. Only I know I played it (and I know others who played it), and I want to play it again if I can.

So if you think your Google-fu is better than mine, up for the challenge of finding a game that is well-hidden, watch Sunday morning. For that matter, tune in whenever you can. Give the guys and their guests challenges, either now or in the chatroom they’ll have set up. Or even just make a donation and watch the fun bits later on the recording.

However you do it, everybody wins, even when one of them is losing.

Geeking for Good

Emergency Contraception OTC: It's Time

Women, in particular women of color, were critical in getting Obama re-elected. It’s time we and they got something in return.

Female in silhouette: "Why yes, we did help you get elected." Additional text: 1 in 3 people experience barriers in accessing EC. Fix that. Emergency contraception needs to be in our hands.

If you’re in the U.S., go sign this petition from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project to push for that thing to be over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. If you need to know why, keep reading. Continue reading “Emergency Contraception OTC: It's Time”

Emergency Contraception OTC: It's Time

The Final Reckoning

I promised more thanks from happy teachers either after the election or when the science bloggers’ Donors Choose campaign ended. I, for one, didn’t need cheering up after the election, so I saved these for today. You can see the final results at the end of this post. Spoilers: You helped a lot of kids.

Now for some happy teachers. Continue reading “The Final Reckoning”

The Final Reckoning

Last Chance to Jump In

Donors Choose comes to a close tomorrow. Thanks from teachers whose projects you’ve funded keeps rolling in. I’ll share more later this weekend. Before it’s all over, though, I’d love it if we can help give a bunch of kids access to the same technology that most of us take for granted.

Jumping With Technology

Elizabeth Fonde Elem School, Mobile, AL

My Students: Change the world with technology aid. My students have two computer labs for the first time ever! In order for them to create and save projects, they will need jump drives. As a teacher at a title I school, my parents are not financially able to purchase these for their child.

This year, I have 18 lovely children. The are all excited to learn and are soaking up what we do in the computer lab like a sponge! They range in age from 9 to 12. I teach at a Title I school in Alabama. Our school is slowly trying to change our reputation from a rough school to an academic thriving school with many opportunities for our students.

My Project: If my children have jump drives, I will be able to teach them many technology resources and how to use them! By having the ink and paper, I can provide more resources to help them complete their projects by providing a resource for them to print information that they gather form the computer!

I feel as though this donation will make a huge difference to my classroom. It will show students how kind people are in the world and that others care about them and their education. I also believe that it will better prepare my students for a better future!

The NEA Foundation is matching everything donated to this project. I know that many of you donated to election campaigns. I know that many of you donated to Skepticon. However, this project is only $152 from completion. Small donations will add up quickly. Think we can fund one more project?

If you donate, don’t forget to enter the matching code “SCIENCE” when you check out. Your donation will be matched up to $100 by Donors Choose itself.

Last Chance to Jump In

Thanking Donors

It’s the day before election day here in the U.S. Mostly, that means donor fatigue, annoyance at every new-email notification, growling at television and YouTube ads, and a certain amount of general anxiety. In…er, celebration? No. In recognition of the day, have a little bit of instant feel-good.

Readers from this blog have been participating in the Donors Choice science bloggers challenge. They–you–have, through large donations and small, given more than the readers of any other individual blog except Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy. You have helped to complete 13 projects reaching almost 1,900 students. That is no small feat. Thank you.

There are other people who would like to thank you as well. Here are a few of the letters I’ve been receiving from teachers. Continue reading “Thanking Donors”

Thanking Donors

Atheism Really Does Equal Communism!

Well, maybe not exactly communism, but if you’ve got the ability, Skepticon has a need. More importantly, Skepticon is filling a need. JT explains:

Five years ago, when Skepticon was conceived, we noticed a problem: the only major conferences available cost, at minimum, a few hundred bucks just to walk in the door.  The problem wasn’t the charging, because groups like American Atheists do phenomenal things with the income from conference.  The problem is that there was no alternative for those, like myself at the time, who couldn’t afford that.  The lack of an alternative created a class distinction where only those with a fair amount of money had access to their atheist heroes.  Skepticon was invented as an antidote to that problem.  We decided, sometimes after fighting over how easier things would be if we just charged a small amount, to keep it free, and to just work out asses off to keep it that way.

And it worked.  While heading up the organizing effort, the most common emails I received contained overwhelming gratitude that there was finally a conference they could afford to attend.  The crowds at Skepticon were unlike any other event (and those who have attended can attest to this).  Whereas young people were the vast minority at conferences before, at Skepticon they came in droves.  The ages in the crowd ranged from 9 years-old up to 91, and the sheer joy throughout the attending crowd was unlike anywhere else I’d ever been.  That one could be a part of this event for free is undoubtedly culpable for Skepticon’s trademark high energy atmosphere.

Not only does Skepticon keep their tickets free, but they’re right there in the center of the country. They’re in the middle of that most-churched swath of our country, on one edge of the land of fundamentalism. They give people resources to organize rides and couches and floors where people can sleep. They put everything they can record on the web with decent production values.

People can reach Skepticon like no other convention, like no other part of the atheist community. They can participate there, even if they can’t at home. They can be part of the crowd instead of hanging separate from it. They can have that experience of having their understanding of the world be simultaneously front and center and part of the background that Christians in our country take for granted.

I’ve heard people say some harsh things about the very existence of an atheist community over the last few months. Some people have said there isn’t one; others that there shouldn’t be. I disagree on both. If I didn’t think community was an important thing to offer those who want it, I wouldn’t put as much work into improving ours as I have.

What I’ve done pales in comparison to what the Skepticon crew does to promote and provide community. Conference volunteers put in an amazing amount of work, but these men and women are unreal. However, volunteer work can only go so far. This is where Skepticon needs your help.

Dear Internet,

Let me start by first saying that I love ALL of your faces. I do.

So, as you may have heard, Skepticon is happening soon and I am so excited! WOOO!

But, here’s the thing. There’s a catch. I know, I know–there is always a catch, but this one is pretty important. Skepticon is in a bit of a tough spot. This year, we had to secure a bigger venue, and that means that it’s more expensive to put on.

If I had all the money in the world, I would put on Skepticon for free every year, but sadly (both for me and the world) that is not the case. We need donations to keep Skepticon running, especially now as we are faced with a larger obstacle than we had originally thought.

Every time I express my worry about Skepticon’s financial situation, I am faced with comments about we ‘should just start charging.’  I won’t lie to you all, doing that would make things much easier financially. If everyone who came to Skepticon gave us $5, we would easily be able to fund ourselves.

But we won’t start doing that. Ever. As far as I am concerned, as long as all of you continue to believe in and support us, then we are willing to put in the work to make this event free to attend. We want any and everyone who can make it out to Springfield freaking’ Missouri to be able to be here with us.

We want you here. We want this event to happen. We need your help.


Hearts and kisses,


Five dollars isn’t very much to give one person access to the speakers and workshops and community that Skepticon offers. Many attendees could do that themselves. Some, however, can’t. Others have already donated all they can afford before the problem (some kind of miscommunication on the costs of the venue) arose. They can’t give any more.

I can, and I have. More people get to go to Skepticon this year because I just donated what I could. Can you? Even just one person? Atheism isn’t really communism, but it does need community. Skepticon supports that community. You can too, by donating directly or passing the word on if you can’t.

And if you’re attending, stop and say, “Hi.”

Atheism Really Does Equal Communism!